Sunday, May 23, 2010

Brandsethelva- Norway

Benjamin Hjort rides the magic carpet known as Brandseth - Norway.

Perhaps Norway's most celebrated and frequented kayak adrenaline hit, the Brandsethelva near Voss, has over the years formed infamous relations with local and international paddlers alike.

Sjoa's Kay Arne Randen finds the sweet spot on the bridge drop.

Like a super model girlfriend, so too can be the love-hate relationship of Brandseth. Love comes in countless forms in this valley - Sensational steep slides around every corner. Amazing colors, transforming photos. At the takeout, camp fire stories and laughter last long into the summer.

Good intentions.

Hate comes later. Boney flows sometimes turn the Brandseth into a bad decision. Backbands, ankles, kayaks and asses have also taken too much abuse on these hard rocks.

Over the years, the finest dimension of Brandseth just might be when melting snow and driving rain mix that love and hate with dubious apprehension. High volume Brandseth is an experience to behold for those who happen to be in the right place at the right time. It's when things really heat up.

Good things come to those make the last turn off the E16 and head up the steep road to creek heaven.

Over the weekend our decision to drop into Brandseth at such stomping flows made our solid crew of cackling creek boaters question our sanity once again as we made our way across the alpine terrain to the put in. It all began silently. Before us it was 525 feet per mile, a handful of eddies among the blur, and a wild man named Benji on point.

Mathias Fossum on the ride.

A Brandseth top-to-race course for those who want to know goes a lot like your favorite song in the shuttle vehicle. A quick walk from road to creek reveals the goods many have traveled far and wide to experience. The light colored bedrock lining of Brandseth mixed with aqua blue green - pristine. Here a small footbridge crosses a gap dividing a not so commonly ran upper entry ramp into a beautiful cascading chute.

Hendri Coetzee drops the put in slide -summer '08

At high flows the distance between the put in slide, and the proceeding mandatory portage is not that far. Portage 1 or both of these beginning rapids on river right and make sure to again walk around a nasty unran 50 that makes contact with too much rock in the landing.

Lars-Georg Paulsen styles the boof over one of the significant holes - Triple drop upper section.

From below the portage a few warm up ledges will give you the idea of how much water is in the run. As the wise Greg Dashper once said: 'you'll either be scraping or scared' in the 150 m leading up to the 1st triple slide combo. In here, beaucoup d'eau make this entry slide combo smooth, but beware of the infamous beatdown hole at the end.

Benji Hjort on target with the exit hole of triple slide.

If you're still sitting in your boat after the rocking intro, get ready for the beast around the corner. A lone river right eddy leaves you focused on a significant horizon line masking a holy super slide. With significant debate about what to do on this one most usually agree that starting center right and not flipping beyond this point is whats important.

Halfway down what is easily known as 'the slide' on the upper section.

Brandsetelva team race 2009

Onto a brief stretch of windy rock gardens, the second road bridge appearing overhead signals the bridge drop. Often worth a look, high flows reward you with a clean center line followed with a quick blast out of the exit hole.

Bridge drop.

Just beyond the bridge drop a low angled slide awaits a right turn and the only other commonly portaged rapid. In here another slide sends you flying towards a sharp right hand slot with few options. At lower flows catching a river left micro eddy halfway through the rapid makes a sweet peel out line possible through the narrow corner exit.

Low-key doesn't last long in the eddy below the second common portage.

A brief calm might reorganize your adrenaline momentarily, but another 100m leads into yet another epic slide worth knowing about.......

Andy Phillips enters the last slide before the racecourse section.

It's maybe here in the pool below that heavy hitting title track etched in your brain might finally slow down a little. Our group of seven begins to soak in the dozen roaring gradient plunges we have just came through unscathed.

What most creeks wouldn't possibly contain from top to bottom in quality, the Brandseth only now serves up the famous Brandseth downhill section. A new chapter of goodness leaves many more quality paddling strokes in a familiar setting and beckons hundreds of spectators every summer for quite a spectacle. For now that is the least of our worries. It's May, high water and the song is certainly not over yet.

The creek in your thoughts comes alive and immaculately produces what you have searched for. Special thanks to Silje Skjorve and Arild Tvilde for the quality images.

View Brandsethelva (III-V) in a larger map